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May 1st, 2003

Several years ago, after I made a pretty self-righteous remark at a church meeting, I was reproached as having “no right to be so flip for someone so young” (I was 24 at the time, in my first year of seminary). Feeling bruised in the ego, I counterattacked, accusing the person of discriminating… against me because I was young. Oh brother.
Things have a way of coming back to haunt you.
I was in Toronto (last summer, pre-SARS) when the Pope came to visit . At an assembly of about 150 college and high school students, a bishop from California was speaking from a prepared text about reconciliation, what it means to turn back to God. He then gave the students a chance to talk to one another in groups and then to report

May 1st, 2003
A Student Activist's Take on Incarceration from the Inside

As my second week in prison comes to a close, it becomes increasingly clear that the prison system serves little purpose than that of a multi-billion dollar industry.
The economics of incarcerationEach federal prison receives $20,000 and up per year per inmate for room and board. This money is supposedly used for the upkeep of an eight feet by nine feet cubicle housing two people, and to purchase our food (despite most of the food being expired, unsellable goods donated by supermarkets for tax write-offs).
In comparison, it costs less than $15,000 per year to live and eat at most private colleges, institutions hardly known for skimping.
The prisons also receive funds for inmates enrolled in GED classes, drug programs,…

May 1st, 2003
The Consequences; Surviving Cancer at 30

With my tongue outstretched and her hand on my pulse, the acupuncturist fired questions and conclusions at me:
“You worry too much. You think too much. Are you angry?”
I groaned to myself; she knows way too much for someone I’d just met.
“Uh…”
“Are you angry?”
“No.” I lied.
The heart of the matterShe picked up on the thing I avoid the most and, thus, the thing that causes me the most pain. I’m 30 years old and in the last 15 of them have battled three different types of cancer a total of five different times. I have every right to be angry but I’m usually better at hiding it.
I’m angry about the fallout of illness. The lasting physical…

April 29th, 2003
The Moral Obligation to Rebuild Iraq

I don’t like President Bush.
There, I said it. I don’t think he makes many wise decisions. I didn’t support his decision to go to war, and I suspect that he has ulterior motives with regard to the oil-rich Middle East.
However, I also think that President Bush means well despite my disagreements with his policies.
I believe President Bush thinks that he’s doing a good thing, that the Iraqi people will be better in the long run than they were under Saddam. He feels that he is triumphing over evil in a way that will bring peace to a region that hasn’t known peace. The citizens who cheered coalition forces and thanked President Bush for overthrowing Saddam show that, in some ways, President…

April 27th, 2003
Some Women Need Not Apply

While my elementary school teachers told me to believe in myself, my parents warned me it was not good to be full of myself. Love thyself and trust thyself, yes, but not too much.
Be confident, yes, but not obnoxious, said mentors. Pride, or “excessive belief in one’s own abilities,” taken to an extreme, leaves no room within the human persona for the priceless virtue of humility.
The wrong pitfall?
Warnings against pride are well and good, but a qualification must be added. When discussing the pitfalls of pride and the honor in humility, it is necessary to nuance the discussion with special attention to gender. The ancient sin of pride was defined during a time in history when women’s experience…

April 27th, 2003
Learning to Live in the Messy World of Relationships

Recently a certain American Catholic bishop, who shall remain nameless, was characterized by a seasoned priest I know as “a man who loves order more than people.”
It certainly wasn’t meant as a compliment, but believe it or not, he made the remark more in sorrow than in bitterness, as part of a general lament about what life has come to in the United States.
In the U.S. we are very attached to order, and most of the time it is to our credit. The mail gets delivered. The fire department comes when called. You can get those grapefruit and chewable vitamins you need from your neighborhood grocery.
The human mess
But the desire for tidiness in our affairs can collide with the messy world of human relationships.…

April 20th, 2003
The Unexpected Wonder of Expecting

My two-year-old presses his ear to the bulge that is my belly.
“She’s not big enough yet,” he informs me, his diagnosis delivered with tiny confidence.
“What will happen when she’s big enough?” I ask.
“She’ll come out,” he says.
I have over three months left in this pregnancy, but already I feel huge and uncomfortable. I dread stepping on the scale and seeing the inevitable upward curve of the little black numbers. When I lament to my husband he pinches the fat newly layered on my arm, thinking I will find him cute. I snarl and make him drive me to Dairy Queen.
But those are the bad days, the times I give in to fixating on the minor inconveniences of helping God…

April 19th, 2003
The April 8 Attacks Demand a Reckoning

No doubt a sad page has been turned as a result of U.S. troop actions that led to the death of three journalists last Wednesday . It’s hard not to think that an unspoken and ominous message was delivered to the profession of journalism by way of the U.S. Army.
If I were writing that message as a news headline it would read: “U.S. to Independent Journalists in Iraq: Is That a Target on Your Head?”
What happened April 8?
Are we to believe the tank round fired at the Palestine Hotel?which killed two journalists?and the two missile attacks on the Al-Jazeera and Abu Dhabi news networks came about as a tragic coincidence?
Three incidents on the same day sounds like two too many.
Or could it be that the U.S. was…

April 19th, 2003
Thirtysomething, Divorced, and Catholic

Down for the count
During his homily on World Marriage Day, the priest asked everyone who had been married less than a year to stand up. He then asked everyone married one to five years to also stand. Then five to 10 and so on, until he got to 50 plus married years. He looked around and paused. Slowly he said, “Now everyone who is married should be standing up, right?”
I knew why he was asking the question. I too was surprised. About half of the adults in the pews were still sitting. I was also sitting although technically still married. But in a few months my divorce would be final. And so I sat. I didn’t know I had so much company.
Looking around I thought, well some of these folks might be single, some widows…

April 18th, 2003
Better Luck Tomorrow Brings Welcome Complexity to Asian America

With this film, it’s tempting, oh-so-tempting, to make the expected references to classic rock songs: “The Kids Are Alright.” “Teenage Wasteland.” “Another Brick in the Wall.”
But that’s not the world that spawned the kids of Justin Lin’s Better Luck Tomorrow . Set in the upper-middle class gated community suburbs of Orange County, the film draws from the best of the teen and (urban) gangster movie genres to offer something fresh: an edgy, well-made, even disturbing satire that’s equally Asian American and mainstream.
“Flip it and reverse it”On the teen front, one central and classic question the movie raises is: “Who…

April 15th, 2003
This Fast Track May Cause You to Stall

There is no question that the American entertainment industry has quite an influence on the American public. People interviewed by Jay Leno during his Jay Walking skit are perfect examples of how someone can know the names of all of the members of N*SYNC and the Back Street Boys but can’t name even one member of the Supreme Court .
The road to fame in Hollywood
The “industry” places an extremely high value on the entertainment world and it is difficult to escape the hype that goes along with the entertainment community. The Kennedy’s have often been referred to as American royalty but the American royalty for our generation seems more to be the members of the Hollywood elite, the A-list celebrities…

April 14th, 2003
Wisdom from Jesus and the Corn Guy

No one’s in the kitchen with Martha
“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things,” said Jesus (Luke 10:38-42) after a productive Martha rebuked her lazy sister Mary for sitting at Jesus’ feet and listening to him speak instead of helping her. An indignant Martha stormed back to the kitchen and continued making a snack for her company. Jesus was on a house visit and the very least she could do was to feed him.
This scolding may sound more like something out of the Brady Bunch than the Bible, but lately I’ve found a lot of wisdom in it.
Like a lot of people, I identify with Martha’s compulsion to be productive. Within our culture, we value the “Martha time”…

April 12th, 2003
Being a Christian When People Are Better Off in Prison

Federal Prison Camp, Maxwell Air Force Base—I was speaking to one of my friends today as we sat by the river inside the Camp. We were talking about life in prison as opposed to life on the outside.
He said “I like it here. My life is better here. On the outside, I was living in substandard housing, had almost no food to eat, and no friends. Here, I have three meals a day, friends. And my housing is decent. I’m better off here.”
When he said this I nearly fell out of my seat. How could a person be better off in prison?
What does freedom matter?
I pondered this. I realized that here in prison we may lose our freedom, but does freedom really matter you are not free from hunger, homelessness, and disease? If you…

April 12th, 2003
Confessions of a Possibly Dangerous Mind

Mirror, mirror on the wall…
I was looking in the mirror recently (I’m trying to lose weight and this is a good way to ruin my appetite…), and I realized that it’s actually healthy to look at myself as I really am.
I know that sounds pretty simplistic, and I’m nothing if I’m not a simple person, but I mean I really take time to look at who I am. Not looking in the mirror to check my hair, or to see if my sideburns are even, or to see if my butt looks big in these jeans (all right, I’ll admit I’ve never looked for that). But I look in the mirror to see who I really am…versus the person that I just want other people to see.
And this is basically the first step I make to start seeing how God really…

April 12th, 2003
Scripture Reflections for Sundays in Lent

Readings:
Jeremiah 31:31-34
Hebrews 5:7-9
John 12:20-33
I live in an ugly building. It’s a brown and teal low-rise that winds around a parking lot like a drunken staircase flipped on its side. Not surprisingly, the building was constructed in the 1960s when, apparently, creative architecture called for convoluted hallways and unmarked doors at every corner. My building is a labyrinth. Pizza delivery is a nightmare.
Fortunately, in the 1960s, someone also had the genius idea of designing each individual apartment with a six-meter wall of windows. Most tenants take advantage of the light and house endless plants on their windowsills. At dawn, when it’s still early enough to peep through living…

April 10th, 2003
Philip Morris Companies Became Altria Group - So What?

When a corporation like the Philip Morris Companies changes its name, is it a change in deed or just in word?
As the umbrella company that owns such diverse products as Kool-Aid, Altoids, Oscar Meyer, and Miller Beer, Philip Morris Companies changed its name to Altria in January of this year.
It’s a significant milestone for the company that owns the subsidiary Philip Morris, which, in turn, sells the world’s most profitable brand of cigarette?Marlboro.
Since it is widely established that cigarettes cause cancer, the name change begs some obvious questions:
Does the name change reflect a willingness to rely less on tobacco profits and settle tobacco litigation in good faith?
Will the name change…

April 10th, 2003
L.A. Faith Communities Celebrate Easter Their Way

I love the Easter rituals that help me connect with the emotion and significance of this holiest day of the year. So I felt particularly blessed to be present for two different sets of rites as Los Angeles faith communities celebrated Easter according to traditions old and new.
Bringing the river to the city
At St. Thomas the Apostle Church, a Latino parish near downtown Los Angeles, parishioners carrying white candles spilled out into the streets during the Easter Vigil Saturday night. They witnessed more than 30 youth and adults receive the sacrament of baptism and become initiated into the Catholic faith. They are called “the Elect” since it is Catholic belief that it is God who has chosen them to…

April 10th, 2003
We Shared More Than Just a Hometown

Waiting (once again) on the primitive printer in our office, I stared out into space and thought idly about what I was going to eat for lunch. Times Square doesn’t offer much in the means of good food, so I wasn’t off in hungry never-never land for very long.
When I snapped out of it, an unfamiliar face was walking towards me. I work in a very small office where everyone knows one another, so this was an event. I didn’t know this mystery woman, but something about her seemed so familiar. As she got closer I realized that she looked a lot like this timid Colombian girl I knew in college. Hmm, I wonder…
Mystery womanShe smiled sheepishly as she approached and made to walk on past. I stopped her, “Excuse…

April 10th, 2003
Filesharing Isn't Unethical or Killing the Music Business

Lest we forget?
When the Cincinnati Bengals were in the 1988 Super Bowl (yes, really), a local radio station cobbled together rousing stadium anthems with such audio gems as “The Who-Dey Rap,” and the mix was broadcast every day at 5 p.m. “Get those tape recorders ready,” I remember the DJ saying. “?Welcome to the Jungle’ is coming up next.”
The Recording Industry Association of America, it seems, is now furious that technology has facilitated what teenagers have been doing quite harmlessly for years. Music fans are now freed from the ritual of standing next to the stereo, fingers on the play-record buttons, praying that the next song up will be “Walk of Life”?a…

April 10th, 2003
Do Catholics need a Money Makeover?

Recently, I was talking with a group of socially conscious Catholic friends about money. The question came up, “How does being Catholic influence how we think about money?”
Our answers were revealing.
The bummer of bucks
One mentioned Jesus’ parable about it being easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get to heaven. Another noted that the disciples were asked to leave behind all their material possessions on the spot to follow Jesus. A third remembered Jesus overturning the merchants’ tables at the Temple because they were selling things (see box below).
No wonder many of us are operating in our current lives from the point of view that you’re…

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